# Does PLA block wifi signals?

I printed a raspberry pi case from PLA. This case.

I fitted it to my raspberry pi and now the wifi keeps dropping out. When I take it out of the case there is no problem.

The filament I am using is Black, 3D Hero 1.75mm.

Has anyone experienced anything like this before, if so how did you work around it? Is it common with PLA is there another material that wouldn't cause an issue?

• What color, some colors may contain conductive pigment. – r_ahlskog Mar 27 '19 at 12:08
• @r_ahlskog Black, 3D Hero, 1.75mm – JackU Mar 27 '19 at 12:12
• Black would be a prime suspect, probably contains carbon. Being electrically conductive would make it attenuate the WiFi signal and likely be the cause of your problems, even more if it was grounded. – r_ahlskog Mar 27 '19 at 12:15
• The issue could also be heat. Do yo have ventilation holes? Is there a fan? – user77232 Mar 27 '19 at 12:59
• @user77232 - There's a lot of ventilation holes in the pattern. I would doubt the Pi creates enough heat to cause issues, but you never know. – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Mar 27 '19 at 13:13

Typically the black pigments in polymers are mineral based. If you are having true WiFi issues then it sounds like your filiment is using black iron oxide also called magnetite for the black pigment. This is the same material they use in radar absorbing paints which would make sense as to why you are having radio related issues.

• the other common black pigment is carbon. – Trish Mar 28 '19 at 7:58

It could be several problems

• Shielding from the material
• Heat
• Mechanical load from the casing
• A metal screw next to the antenna

To learn more about the problem, comparing different configurations is the only way to got (As you guessed, it might be shielding, so you could see how the same shape works when printed in white PLA). Since comparing wifi signals is very prone to random changes, it is important to get better information than "random drops". Signal strength is a much better indicator.

A wifi signal test is shown here, comparing a bare PI with one in a aluminum case https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=26OxCwEHoTk Indeed the aluminum case reduces the signal strength, as it was to expect.

For a faster comparison you can use the command 'iwconfig'. It usually shows a signal strength (Tx-Power)

> iwconfig
wlp4s0    IEEE 802.11  ESSID:off/any
Mode:Managed  Access Point: Not-Associated   Tx-Power=20 dBm
Retry short limit:7   RTS thr=2347 B   Fragment thr:off
Power Management:off


A possible workaround might be to add an external antenna. The raspberry pi actually has solder points to add an antenna connector. https://www.mictronics.de/2017/10/raspberry-pi-3-with-external-antenna/

However it might be simpler to produce several iterations of casings and compare the signal strength, depending on availability to SMD soldering.